Archive for February, 2009

Mia Clementis from Yoake Mae Yori Ruri Iro Na.

When I get a new toy to play with, especially if that toy allows me to make new toys, I tend to obsess over them. Such has been the case when, after sufficient prodding from a variety of sources, I bought the PDF version of the Maid RPG sourcebook. Yes, you read that correctly: it is a tabletop pen-and-paper roleplaying game involving maids.

Anime maids, that is. With everything that entails.

I've chronicled the creation of a basic cast of characters on my Livejournal, as posted in five parts. So far, at least; it is only on subsequent read-throughs that I realized how remarkably filling the game can actually be, despite its fluffy, light exterior. This is a game which can be adapted to a vast number of settings and situations, often in the same campaign. In fact, if you use the Random Events table, this is most likely going to be the case.

So far, the most fun I've had is in rolling up new characters. Unlike the HERO System, this takes something like ten to fifteen minutes, or maybe five minutes if you don't bother to write everything down longhand. Justifying the rolls may take longer, depending on how long you've been doing this sort of thing, but when you end up with a loli vampire maid with an affinity for magic and a great big axe for a weapon (the character I'm currently playing in a play-by-post, at least until the GM vetoes me), the justification may take strange forms.

Actually playing the game probably depends on how good at roleplaying everyone is, as well as how secure everyone is in their manhood. This is not a game for minmaxers, or those who prize an unsullied character concept above all. This is the sort of game for people who're willing to just go with the flow and play something, possibly because the designated cleric is a no-show.

And if, like me, you are a fan of moe harem comedy anime, with or without maids, this is perfect for you.

You can, if you want to, play as a butler, but then butlers are basically a side-show to the maids (automatically losing any challenge against a maid character), even if they are more accurately combat butlers. You can also play the "master" of the house, but you'll be stuck with even worse stats, and nothing to do except dispense Favour (the experience points of the game) like a particularly sad and geeky vending machine.

You can also, and this is allowed in the rules, pick and choose your desired character traits from the many (many many many) tables, but this kind of takes some of the fun out of it.

A great deal of the charm of the rulebook is the presence of the example characters, who do not just show us how the rules work, but enact little skits where they actually apply the rules directly, rolling their own dice. This is a great help in explaining the sometimes complex interaction of rules, as well as providing a decidedly moe heroine in Bashful Demon Maid Hizumi, who has no idea how she managed to roll a Demon trait.

This is a fun, light rules system, made for playing fun, light games. The best word I can think of to describe Maid RPG is "charming"; it's not perfect, but it's hard to fault it for its flaws. We have the core rules weighing in at about thirty pages, and then one hundred and eighty pages of optional rules that add a great deal more depth to the game.

At eight dollars for the PDF of 223 pages, this game is incredible value for money. There is even a little note from the translator telling anyone who pirates the game that the most important thing they should do is to play it, not just let it sit and rot on the hard drive. I cannot think of better advertising than that.

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First screenshot.
Second screenshot.

Name the game systems.

Left top shelf: ???, XBox 360, what looks like a slimline PlayStation 2, what might be a PC Engine (or a bunch of cartridges), and a Mega Drive/Genesis.

Left third shelf: PC-FX, some kind of arcade joystick gamepad, a box of parts, and… is that a Wii?

Left bottom shelf: I think it's a NES (well, technically Famicom).

Right top shelf: I'd guess a Super Famicom if the shape weren't all wrong; maybe a 3DO? It's a Saturn, and probably a Playstation 3.

Right bottom shelf: GameCube (I think; wrong number of controller ports), and… could be a Dreamcast.

I'm going to go turn in my geek card now.

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The SOS Brigade in the Wild West.

While Real Life takes over most of my, well, life, I have attempted to alter the flow of feng shui around my destiny by choosing a new desktop image. One wonders if this will have the same effect as mere rearrangement of furniture.

Yes, I am superstitious. I used to scoff at such things, but then I started playing Dungeons and Dragons, and from there assorted other tabletop roleplaying games. These all have one thing in common, also shared with certain Las Vegas activities, in that fortunes may turn upon the next roll of the dice.

Desktop wallpapers (or backgrounds, or whatever you want to call them) are a particularly specific category of images. Firstly, they must be of a certain size, or at least a certain aspect ratio, and have to look at least somewhat decent when stretched to fit. Secondly, they should preferably not be too busy, with gaudy colours and attention-grabbing shades in nigh-random locales, because it's supposed to be a background, rather than the main feature.

And personally, I make it a point not to have anything too embarrassing. I'm well-known among my friends and family as an anime obsessive of the species Creepius Fanboius, so having something anime-related is a given, but occasionally little children come to visit and wish to check their Facebook or something, and pantyshots may not be appropriate.

All this is probably far too much thought to put into something that I only see when I start up and shut down my computer anyway. So it goes.

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From Clannad.

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The girls of Lucky Star.

No, I don't have a girlfriend. No, I've never had a girlfriend. No, I'll likely never have a girlfriend. Yes, the balance of probability is that I'll live out the rest of my life alone and unloved, save for the escapist fantasies conjured up by my desperate mind.

That still doesn't mean that I can't wish other people a happy Valentine's Day. You don't have to spend lots of money, although I'm aware that's what retailers are hoping. I'm pretty sure that if it's a love worth having, then whoever it is you're with will be more than happy that you're simply spending time with them.

Meanwhile, I can enjoy the plethora of pics released for this occasion, like on every other. I don't mind that I'm alone on a day meant for couples, and I don't even mind that I dislike chocolate (give me vanilla every time), since it gives me a chance to ogle cute anime girls doing stuff. I'm easily satisfied like that.

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Cross Channel.

I realize that this anime blog is, as I always mention, intended for moe, and all it entails. It's not so much a genre as a style, an additional feature that can stand on its own (regardless of whether it should), but can also be added to another show as akin to a condiment. It is, in the popular definition, a set of traits and personality types which converge, however eventually, to a common point.

Even so, there is one particular form of moe which has never quite grabbed me in the same way as, say, glasses or silence. Strangely enough, at least in the Anglophone anime fandom, it appears to be the most popular, or rather the one with the most vocal contingent. It is a personality type that relies on being abusive, insulting, and unpleasant towards their target audience, in the hopes of some sort of payoff at the end. This is, of course, the tsundere.

This is one of those words which has no real English equivalent. It is difficult to explain with a definition, but somewhat easier to provide examples of. The vague idea has been around for somewhat longer than anime itself, but only reached its current form, complete with a Platonic ideal and a parodifiable stereotype, quite recently. TVTropes, as usual, has an article.

This post will be rather different from my previous posts on the aspects of moe, in that I don't actually understand this particular variety. (This must be how non-moe fans feel about us.) So I'll be relying on other people to explain why they like tsundere characters; in this case, a friend of mine who would like to go on the record as insisting that he is not speaking for all of the tsundere fandom, but merely his own personal tastes.

Since I am incredibly biased, I get to go first.

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Nanoha prepares to fire.

One bit of advice most frequently heard among blog comments, generally in the vicinity of blog posts about blogging itself, is to Write What You Want, and from there Write What You Know. Which may be all well and good, but this runs smack into the adage of Knowing Your Audience: if your Audience doesn't Know what You Know, then whatever has been Written is likely to go unRead.

Then again, I never promised anything other than two pings on your chosen RSS feed per week, whether or not these pings are of any use. So it goes.

If forced to identify myself in the overall hierarchy of fandom, I would place my name firmly in the nebulous mass of the fanfic writers. Considering the reputation fanfic has among the other parts of fandom, and the derision that fanfic writers themselves (I do not say "ourselves" because I've never done it personally; I am in the subsection of lazy fanfic writers, far too lazy to bother commenting on other people's fanfics) heap upon fanfics which do not meet some arbitrary standard of plot, it is perhaps not surprising that I am quite comfortable by now with my reputation for having no taste whatsoever.

Even worse, I happily commit the sin of creating new characters for use in my own fanfics. These are labelled "original characters", which I suspect provides for a nice shorthand label of "OC", like "AU" or "gen". This is odd, since these characters are not exactly original, save in the sense that they are not native to the canon.

Some of the time, this is because I needed a personality type that is not available in the series itself: Card Captor Sakura was lacking in the deadpan Spineless Harem Comedy Character type, which led to ten-year old Ichiro Onosaka and his unrequited crush on Tomoyo Daidouji. Mostly, however, I just thought that it would be so cool to be a character in that world, and so I create Significant or Powered characters to live vicariously through. Self-inserts, essentially, except with different names, personalities, and pretty much everything except wish-fulfilment.

Such characters, and their authors, are often claimed to be the scum of the Internet, implying that we are worse than 4chan, which has to be an incredible achievement in its own right. It is seen to be in bad taste; since I am a primary fan of Moe Fanservice Anime, though, I have no shame.

And then there are the Mary Sues. This term has been bandied about the Internet for so long that it should need no explanation, but since I'd rather not simply assume, we shall work on the definition that a Mary Sue is a character who is so powerful, so perfect, and so well-loved, that she (or he, for that matter; such are called Marty Stus, or Gary Stus, or some such) overshadows the canon characters. The astute reader may immediately spot the problem with this definition (namely, the sheer subjectivity of every important term), which is probably why the term "Mary Sue" has been argued about for as long as it has existed in the fandom consciousness.

As an example, let me show you them introduce to you one of my favourite original characters to write, a Mary Sue from the marginally-post-StrikerS era of Mahou Shoujo Lyrical Nanoha, Lumina Celeste.

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From the last chronological episode.

There are times when it is best to avoid certain parts of the Internet, specifically the locales populated by the more excitable features of fandom. Like a gathering storm, one might be able to see the dark clouds in the distance, forming an eldritch vortex centered around the site of momentous events, often enshrined in a multi-stage boss fight with pseudo-Latinate choirs. The wisest course of action in these cases is to Be Somewhere Else.

I feel oddly detached from what has been described as Kyoto Animation's "god-level trolling". I am entirely satisfied with the first and thus far only season of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, being a fairly complete story of reasonable quality. The rumours of a second season are welcome, but not essential, like the much-touted need for New Fans, or Fans Who Need To Keep Their Interest Up. Personally, I believe that if a show is good, then it is good, and does not require constant infusions of new content to be enjoyable. This is not a MMORPG, paid for monthly; it is a regular game, paid for once (with a rather larger amount of cash) and done. Theoretically, at least: the endless stream of patches most games go through are a worrying sign of the times, and the analogy breaks down somewhat, since by the time you get to pay for an anime (putting aside digital distribution), it has already been "patched" to a final-ish version with the animation corrections on the DVDs.

My blase attitude could be due to my self-identification, among others, as a gamer: if I were affected intensely by every delay and cancellation, I would not be able to see the humour in the developer definition of "soon". I know I am not alone in this, as I've heard Haruhi S2 described as anime's Duke Nukem Forever, with some wondering if it would turn into a Starcraft Ghost.

Comments about "leaving the franchise to die" are equally misguided, as my favourite anime of all time bar none is Card Captor Sakura, now coming on to a decade of existence, and I certainly don't believe that it has been abandoned. My love of the show is not ephemeral and weak. When I named The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya as my second favourite anime, it will remain my second favourite anime until something even better comes along, but it will not lose any of its lustre with age.

Besides, I'm still busy with the side project of genderswapping the characters, so I will be in the fandom for a very long time to come.

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